Prescription For A Good Life
Blaine And Ann Alberty
Blaine Alberty was a University of Missouri undergrad when he first worked at D&H Drugstore. Back then, he never would’ve imagined that he would be an owner at D&H someday, much less that his future wife — whom at that point he hadn’t even met — would work there with him. And not only his future wife, but also a son, a daughter and a daughter-in-law.
“It’s amazing,” Blaine says of working at D&H with so many family members, “and it’s really nice.”
The first ingredients came together in Kansas City, where Blaine met Ann Ellsbury. The two of them were set up on a blind date while Blaine was in pharmacy school in Kansas City and Ann was attending nursing school in her hometown of Wichita, three hours away.
Blaine and Ann immediately hit it off, largely, they say, because of a shared “weird” sense of humor. The two of them were married on January 6, 1973, while both were still in school. Blaine graduated that May, and in December, he and Ann welcomed their first child, Darran. Upon their son’s arrival, Ann still had one semester left in nursing school, so their little family stayed in Kansas City until the following summer. Then Blaine took a job in Rolla. But just six months later, the owners of D&H called to see if Blaine would want to be a pharmacist at the store’s new location on Paris Road.
“And we jumped at the chance to get back to Columbia,” Blaine says, explaining Rolla was a little too small for them. “Columbia has just been perfect.”
The move to Columbia came in 1975. As Blaine settled in at D&H, Ann took a nursing position at Columbia Regional Hospital (now University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital), which had just opened the previous year. Ann and Blaine’s second child, a daughter, Kelly, arrived in 1976, and in 1982, their son Patrick was born.
Between Kelly’s and Patrick’s arrivals, Blaine was offered the chance to buy into D&H to become a partner.
“We knew we liked Columbia, and we obviously liked D&H a lot, so it was a no-brainer,” he says of that decision.
As a pharmacist, Blaine had flexibility in his schedule, and while the kids were growing up, Ann kept her work to part-time. That allowed either her or Blaine to be home most of the time. It worked great as far as taking care of the kids, but that arrangement did mean there were stretches when Ann and Blaine weren’t home much together. It was hard, they say, but both sets of grandparents would watch the kids some on weekends to give Blaine and Ann time to catch up.
A big shift came when Darran started high school. Ann felt ready to take a full-time position, and she went to high school with her son — to serve as the Hickman High School nurse.
“I really, really liked it,” Ann says, adding she worked a lot with the students, to educate them about their health and prepare them to take care of themselves as adults. “It was really rewarding. And the kids were great. I think that age group sometimes gets a bad rap, but I liked working with them.”
When Darran was 16, he started helping out at D&H, delivering prescriptions like his dad had done as a college student. Later, when Kelly was in high school, she also worked at D&H, and Patrick worked there while in college.
When Darran eventually started pharmacy school, Blaine and Ann didn’t really expect him to come back to D&H — and they expected it even less after Darran got serious about a girl from St. Louis, Tanya, now his wife.
But Darran and Tanya surprised Blaine and Ann by choosing to settle in Columbia. Darran joined the D&H team in 1997, at the invitation of both his dad and his dad’s partner, Gene Forrester. Tanya, also a pharmacist, followed Darran to D&H in 2000, when she and Darran became parents. Like her mother-in-law, she wanted a part-time position to allow her more time at home, and Blaine and Gene were glad to have her.
The next Alberty to take a job with D&H was Ann in 2003. She had given up her school nurse job a couple of years earlier to spend more time caring for her aging parents and to help out with grandchildren. But by 2003, she was ready to work again part-time.
When she joined D&H, it was still unusual for pharmacies to have a nurse on staff. Ann started out taking patients’ blood pressure and helping them choose appropriate medical equipment. In 2006, she started giving flu and pneumonia shots — making D&H one of the first pharmacies to offer that service. Today, she and another nurse do all of the above, plus a lot of diabetes education.
Blaine and Ann’s daughter, Kelly, whose married name is Della Rocca, began at D&H in 2005. A physical therapist with a master’s degree in gerontology, she helps customers with such issues as bracing a minor injury, and she also handles all of the paperwork for the pharmacy’s Medicare accreditation.
She, too, surprised her parents by choosing to settle in Columbia.
“She was a physical therapist for Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, and that’s where she met her husband, Greg; he’s an orthopedic trauma surgeon,” Blaine explains. “He’s from New York state, and he did training all over the country, and we didn’t think for a minute they’d come to Columbia, but that’s what they decided they wanted to do.”
Patrick chose a different path, pursuing an acting, writing, and film editing career in New York City, where he lives with his wife, Katie. Katie is also an actor with a degree in women’s studies and is currently focusing on documentary film distribution.
“They are very good at what they do,” Blaine says.
The addition of Kelly to the D&H staff brought the total number of family members to five. Looking ahead to retirement, Blaine and Gene have made Darran a third partner, which made him a “boss” to his mother, wife and sister.
It might sound like a complicated work environment, but for their family, it hasn’t been, Blaine and Ann say.
“I think everyone feels pretty open about being able to speak their mind, and I think everyone knows that no one is going to step on anyone else’s ideas,” Blaine says.
“I think it’s just like any other employment in that the final decision comes down to the owners,” Ann adds. “We also try really hard not to talk about work as a family group. We try to leave that at work as much as we can and not make that a priority at family gatherings.”
Those family gatherings include six grandchildren. Darran and Tanya have a 13-year-old son and 10-year-old triplets, two girls and one boy, and Kelly and her husband, Greg, have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
Blaine and Ann love being involved grandparents and help out with babysitting and chauffeuring kids to music lessons. They also go to lots of baseball games and dance recitals. And in the summertime, they have a tradition of taking the boys on a trip one year and taking the girls the next.
“Last summer, we took the boys to New York to see their uncle and aunt, and we took the girls to Oregon the summer before,” Ann says.
Summertime also means family gatherings at the family’s lake house on Table Rock Lake.
With retirement on the horizon, Blaine and Ann hope to spend even more time with their children and grandkids in Columbia, as well as with Patrick and Katie in New York, and they plan to do more traveling together.
But in the meantime, they’re loving their work at D&H, in particular the interaction with customers.
“We have customers who have been coming to D&H longer than I’ve been at D&H,” Blaine says with a laugh.
“They can tell us stories about the neighborhood,” adds Ann.
“And from the time I came here in ’75 and got to know the customers and their children, and now we’re seeing the children’s children, and even some of the children’s children’s children who are coming back, it’s really rewarding,” Blaine says.
“And,” adds Ann, “it’s going by really fast.”